Theoretical & historical research
The goal here is to situate my research on eco-cities within a longer history of utopian urban planning, as well as current discourses on sustainability. My rationale is that these new projects were not dreamed up in a vacuum, but rather they build upon very specific traditions of 20th and 21st century urbanism. Exploring the genealogical origins of eco-cities will help illuminate the underlying values and assumptions being built into them. To a large extent, this project is informed by critical political and economic theory. I aim to be as transparent as possible about this perspective, by explicitly engaging with the work of critical scholars in my discussion of eco-cities.
To identify the goals and motivations underlying various eco-city projects, I will undertake a discourse analysis of their official websites and other promotional materials. I’ll specifically look for how they define sustainability, and what justifications are given for that definition. I’ll also be looking at their stated social, economic and environmental goals, as well as the concrete design features being implemented to meet these goals. The purpose of this is to compare the rhetorical and substantive weight given to different aspects of sustainability. Additionally, I’ll be working to identify the actors involved in these development projects, and how their interests may influence the projects’ goals.
In January 2015, I will travel to Masdar City, UAE. The purpose of this trip is to help ground my theoretical analysis of eco-cities in their concrete realities. While in the UAE, I will participate in official tours of Masdar City. This will allow me to evaluate the progress being made on the project, and to assess to what extent it is meeting its goals. Moreover, an important piece of this project is related to the city’s architectural influences, so on-the-ground reconnaissance and direct experience of the city’s built environment will be invaluable. This will also give me an opportunity to interact with the current residents of Masdar City, so that I can get a sense for the realities of daily life in an eco-city. Finally, I am hoping to schedule interviews with Masdar officials and sustainability experts, to try and gain more formal insights into the logic underpinning the development of Masdar City.
Check out my post on methodologies here…